Musical nostalgia lousy advertising tool

By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist

Nothing makes me want to rush out and buy a bottle of Mylanta for my heartburn more than hearing the theme song to “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

Yeah, right!

Continuing with an eloquently titled topic I started a few weeks ago “How stupid do they think I am?” I’m not going to rush out and buy a product just because they’re playing an oldie from the 1970s in a commercial to remind me of my more youthful days. Although I must say, they hold some good memories.

I’m not too crazy about this new trend in advertising, though, because advertising agencies seem to be losing their creativity. They’re just copying one another now like the TV networks have been doing over the past few years with reality shows.

Where’s the originality?

Every time I see another commercial with a song from the beloved disco and rock eras (which I wouldn’t mind returning back to by the way), I feel like I’m being slapped in the face and my intelligence is being severely downsized.

Someone’s sitting in a corporate board room right now laughing because they think all they have to do is play a little Peaches & Herb to sell cans of the Crystal Lite diet drink. Have you seen the spot with women shaking their little cans to the music: “Ah, Shake, shake, shake; shake, shake, shake…”

When I hear the theme song to “Welcome Back, Kotter,” I think John Travolta, a.k.a. Mr. Cool, and Horshack, not Mylanta. Oftentimes, these theme songs have nothing to do with the products, and if they actually did play all the lyrics instead of just a few splices, the result would sometimes be disastrous.

For example, if they let the song to “Welcome Back” keep playing for this commercial it would say, “Welcome back to that same old place that you laughed about (your bathroom or the emergency room, perhaps?).”

Then there’s Office Depot’s “Taking Care of Business” song commercial. The idea is to show they’ve got everything you need to keep your business running smoothly. But let’s just let the lyrics keep flowing and we’ve got a whole other story. “…And if your train’s on time, you can get to work by nine, and start your slaving job to get your pay (Is Office Depot a sweatshop?) … and if you ever get annoyed looking at me, I’m self-employed, I love to work at nothing all day ….. taking care of business … (So does Office Depot service people who do nothing all day?)”

You be the judge.

Subaru’s “Dust in the Wind” commercial is another funny example of how letting the whole song play could be counterproductive with their use of the 1977 hit by Kansas. The idea of the song in the commercial spot is to illustrate how this SUV leaves everything in the dust because it is such a great monster of a car.

If we let the lyrics keep flowing to “Dust in the Wind,” though, the commercial would say:

“…Now, don’t hang on (don’t wear your seatbelt), nothing last forever but the Earth and sky … (so why bother buying this SUV?) … It slips away (deteriorates) … and all your money won’t another minute buy (you can’t take it with you, so why bother) … dust in the wind…. all we are is dust in the wind…”

There are plenty of other examples of old songs being used to sell products, but I’m sure you get the idea now. While these commercials may be entertaining and nostalgic, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will sell. After all, how stupid do they think I am?

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com